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Full text of "Mind's Eye: A Review of the Press February 1977"

THE MIND'S EYE: A REVIEW OF THE PRESS 



Horth Adams State College Prospectus Issue 

NIXON. The percipient Renata Adler, author of one of 1976's best books, Speedboat , 
friend of John Doar, and a member of the impeachment inquiry staff, spins an 
intricate web of unthinkable thoughts about the real crime which led to Richard 
Nixon's resignation ( Atlantic , December 1976). Comparing the Church Committee's 
investigations of government abuses by past presidents with the impeachment 
proceedings, she concludes that "it becomes less and less clear why the Nixon 
presidency had to end." No compelling case for High Crimes and Misdemeanors was 
made. Hence, why did Nixon resign? The real crime, she thinks, was bribery. 
Money of dubious provenance from Rabbi Korff and money "loaned" by Robert Abplanalp 
and Bebe Rebozo was "in fact his own, which he cannot, for one reason or another, 
reach any other way." Where the money probably came from — South Vietnam — is the 
shocker, and Nixon left the White House to forestall disclosure. , 

GEORGE KENNAN'S WORLD. Access to the luminous, uncomplicated mind of George Kennan 
is provided by The New York Review of Books in the transcription of a public tele- 
vision interview by Martin Agronsky ("A Different Approach to the World: An Inter- 
view," January 20, 1977) which sparkles with challenging insights into U.S. problems 
vis-a-vis Russia, Africa, the Middle East, energy (if we expect to be of real help 
in solving the Arab-Israel problem, we should "move smartly" toward conservation arid 
alternative power sources, particularly solar), China, the nuclear arms race, the 
SALT talks, and international morality. He deplores the double standard by which we 
ask the world to judge Russia and ourselves. Discounting Russian intentions, we 
base our foreign policy solely on Russian military capabilities, while expecting 
other nations to overlook our vast capabilities and take into account only our good 
intentions. Selling enormous amounts of weapons to Iran is "quite mad. . . . Can 
you imagine the outcry that would have arisen in this country," he asks, if Russia 
had put two to three billion dollars worth of arms and tens of thousands of instructors 
into Mexico in the last two or three years? Citing our possesssion of 25,000 to 
30,000 nuclear warheads, he wonders, "What in the world are we thinking of? . . . 
No one in the world, including our finest statesmen ... is good enough, wise enough, 
steady enough to have control over the volume of explosives that now rest in the 
hands of this country." His view of China is admiring and cautious. "I think that 
the Chinese, in a way, have had our number for several decades back. . . . (They) are 
very different people from ourselves. I have no disrespect for them. I think they're 
probably, man for man, the world's most intelligent people, very imaginative, a 
talented and great people; but I think also that they don't particularly like 
foreigners. . . . and I think they are capable, along with their great delicacy of 
behavior, of great ruthlessness when you least expect it. I would feel that Americans 
ought to be very careful in their dealings with them." Have we met our own standards 
of morality in international affairs? "No. ... we have, in many ways, let down our 
traditions in recent years. I don't think we did it with sinister intent, but I think 
we did." 

POETRY IN A NURSING HOME. In the same issue of NYRB Kenneth Koch writes a step-by- 
step description of a successful course in poetry writing which he directed for 
patients in their seventies, eighties, and nineties in the American Nursing Home, New 
York ("I Never Told Anybody," January 20, 1977). The poetic material was the long 
lives chat old people can look back on. The model was the unrhymed, nonmetrical work 
of such poets as Walt Whitman, D. H. Lawrence, and William Carlos Williams. The 
result was the discovery of riches in sad, barren lives. "These things were in our 
students but, I suspect, for the most part, hidden. Writing poems, they discovered 
them and made them into art. . . . They hadn't told anybody, and thus nobody had ever 



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heard it, and neither they nor anyone else knew that it was in them to tell it, 
because they had never written poetry." 

ALIENATION. A thoughtful philosophical and historical study by Louis Dupre in The 
Yale Review ("The Religious Crisis of Our Culture," Winter 1976) is heavy going but 
well worth looking at if you are trying to come to terms with cultural disarray, the 
slipping away of values, and the loss of meaning in a f righteningly empty world. 
Dupre calls the crisis religious in the sense that "religious" refers to the need for 
a transcendent dimension in human existence, in whatever form or shape it may be 
expressed. Institutional religion is not his concern; in fact, in his view, It is 
part of the problem because it is as secularized as society itself. The loss of 
transcendence began — imperceptibly and contradictorily — 2500 years ago with the Greeks, 
when, putting the mythic view of the world behind them, they set Western civilization 
in motion with the invention of methodical thought. The death of God was fore- 
ordained when philosophy, applying such terms as First Cause and Author of nature, 
destroyed transcendence by making God a part of the natural system. Insofar as 
philosophical analysis is a way of gaining control over the world ("Knowledge is 
power") , its natural children were the scientific and technological revolutions and 
the loss of the very freedom which the theory of moral autonomy asserts is man's 
essence. We lost freedom at the moment when we thought we had gained it, because 
the next logical step after" control of the world is the control of men by other men. 
"How can our culture regain its heart?" There is no road back to the past. We must 
first face the situation with patience, hope, and courage. "It is difficult to accept 
what we have become — lonely, dispersed, isolated — and yet to abide the return of 
meaning." What is to be faced is the fact of our atheism. To overcome the crisis 
requires the reversal of the alienating attitudes which caused it. We are suffocating 
for lack of spiritual space. "The space for freedom is created by transcendence. 
What we need, then, is to adopt attitudes in which transcendence can be recognized again." 

LEONARD FEENEY. Once a bright poetic star of the American Jesuits and chaplain of 
St. Benedict's Center, Cambridge — a haven for Catholic students of Harvard, Radcliffe, 
and other "secular" colleges in the vicinity — Fr. Leonard Feeney fell into ecclesias- 
tical disrepute just after World War II. His overliteral interpretation of the 
ancient doctrine, "Outside the Church there is no salvation," earned him excommuni- 
cation. It also brought him fervid followers and led to the foundation of the Slaves 
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on a 146-acre plot of land in Harvard, Massachusetts. 
They were, perhaps, the first of the Jesus people, by two decades. In the 1950's 
Fr. Feeney' s Slaves were familiar figures throughout the Northeast, preaching the one 
true salvation and selling its literature. Thereafter, obscurity. John Deedy, 
managing editor of the Commonw eal , brings the story up to date (January 7, 1977). 
The ordeal with Rome ended in 1974 when Fr. Feeney, now 80 years old, and 29 members 
of his community made a simple profession of faith without recantation or disavowal 
of their former ideas on salvation. The group, with two members now ordained to the 
priesthood, is working towards canonical acceptance into the Order of St. Benedict 
and the foundation of a Benedictine abbey or priory. Happy ending? For some, but 
not all. Eighteen members refused the 1974 profession of faith, occupy part of the 
Harvard property, and litigation is pending. 



The Mind' s Eye is planned as a monthly publication with summaries of noteworthy 
articles of general interest in the current periodical press. Members of the college 
community are invited to participate as editors and contributors, and suggestions as 
to coverage, format, and content are sought. Editor of this issue: Charles Mclsaac.